How Keeping Mentally Agile May Help You Avoid Dementia
Friday, January 18th, 2019 | Blog
We all have times when we forget something, and our mind goes blank. Stress and tiredness are very much contributing factors to these moments where our recall is not as quick as it usually is. The Alzheimer’s Society says that keeping your mind active is likely to reduce your risk of dementia.
They say that researchers are moving towards a cure, but they have broadened their focus to include prevention strategies, and it’s thought that the onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be prevented by ensuring a combination of healthy habits.
There are ‘6 pillars’ of Alzheimer’s prevention. Of course, some of the risk factors are outside of your control and include your age and your genetics. By controlling your personal risk factors, you can maximise your chances of lifelong brain health by taking effective steps to keep your cognitive abilities.
According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50%. Exercise directly benefits the brain cells by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Exercise is a valuable part of any overall wellness plan.
Injuries to the head increase in risk as we age, as falls are more likely. Balance and coordination exercises can help you stay agile and avoid spills, which is why yoga and balance balls are an excellent investment.
We should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Ideally, you should include cardio and strength training into your plan. If you’re a beginner, good activities include walking and swimming.
Maintaining an active social life is linked to a lower the risk of cognitive decline. Experts aren’t sure why this is the case, but it is likely due to the mental stimulation associated with social interaction. It is also theorised that it promotes stronger connections between nerve cells in the brain.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, current evidence suggests that ‘heart healthy’ eating may help protect the brain. Limiting your sugar and saturated fat intake can help with this, whilst ensuring to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Those who continue to learn new things and challenge their brains throughout life are less likely to develop diseases such as dementia. ‘Use it or lose it’ is a well-known phrase, and for good reason. In a recent study by NIH ACTIVE, those who received as few as 10 sessions of mental training improved their cognitive functioning in daily activities in the months after and continued to show lasting improvements 10 years later.
Tasks requiring mental stimulation such as communication, interaction and organisation offer great protection for your brain in the long run.
Those with Alzheimer’s often struggle with sleep. Poor sleep has been linked to high levels of a brain-clogging protein that in turn further interferes with sleep. Studies also emphasise the importance of uninterrupted sleep for getting rid of brain toxins.
To help prevents Alzheimer’s and dementia, you should establish a sleep schedule and try and create a relaxing bed time ritual. This could really help you in the long run!
Chronic stress can take its toll on the brain. Simple stress management can minimize effects. Try to quiet your stress response with deep breathing. It is powerful, simple and free. You can also schedule daily stress reducing activities to help keep stress under control.
While research isn’t conclusive, lifestyle choices are thought to support brain health and prevent Alzheimer’s. With limited drawbacks and lots of known benefits, healthy choices can improve your health and possibly protect your brain.